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Cerian Ayes, National Head of Technical Education, Education and Training Foundation

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In praise of the class of 2021 

Evidence shows that teachers are the single biggest influence on whether learners realise their ambitions of progressing to higher levels of study and/or employment in industry sectors of their choice.

Good teaching and training, that embeds impartial, high-quality careers education, information, advice, and guidance, is essential to ensuring positive learner outcomes. It is also crucial to the successful implementation of the government’s technical education reforms, which in turn will underpin our ability to build back better, stronger, and greener, following the UK’s exit from the European Union and the Covid-19 pandemic.

This month the Education and Training Foundation is celebrating the achievements of forty-nine individuals who will play a part in that building back, the initial teacher education graduates from our SET for Teaching Success and Further Forces programmes. They have completed their training in exceptional and unprecedented circumstances.

For many of these individuals, their first experience of teaching and training and facilitating learning was remotely, through online and blended delivering modes, with the need to be continually updating their subject knowledge and skills, pedagogies, and practice in the context of the evolving educational landscape and local, regional, and national priorities.

They have engaged actively as dual professionals in their initial professional development – also delivered remotely over periods of time – and with their wider continuing professional development, in a sector new to them, whilst working to meet the needs of individuals, businesses and their local learning communities. They have updated their subject knowledge, improved their use of technology, and engaged with Industry Insight activity, taking placements in industry, so that they could provide a clear line of sight to work for their learners, to ensure their work-readiness.

A steep learning curve

The trainees have experienced a steep learning curve, but they have been supported by the Education and Training Foundation and its delivery partners. They have embraced the opportunities offered by that support in various ways, utilising the Enhance Digital Teaching Platform to improve their skills in the use of technology, undertaking subject specialist CPD through our T Level Professional Development offer, and updating their professional practice with our Apprenticeship Workforce Development programme.

These trainees are part of an England-wide ITE community of practice, participating in the ETF’s regional networks and sharing effective practice both within their organisations and with the wider sector, and the contribution they will make to the FE sector workforce as qualified technical teachers of Science, Engineering, Technology, and wider technical subject specialist areas will be hugely significant. They join the profession at a time when excellent teaching that is industry informed and relevant has never been more important, with the government’s landmark technical education reforms relying on the kind of skills and experience they bring.

Ensuring those reforms help people of all ages gain the skills they need to secure good jobs, improve their life chances and contribute to the country’s educational and economic recovery will be all-important, and these new colleagues’ relationships and partnerships with employers will pay dividends for their learners.

Industry Insight placements

That’s why the ETF has supported them to build those relationships through activities such as Industry Insight placements. These activities do more than just aid relationship building of course; they also raise their awareness of how technology is transforming and shaping current work practices and increase understanding of the skills needed by industry.

Reflecting on those kinds of experiences is crucial, because doing so identifies the value of building genuine opportunities for two-way street working with employers, that enables co-curriculum planning, design, and delivery, with the ultimate aim of growing the local talent pipeline and succession planning with businesses to increase skills and productivity and contribute towards a sustainable local economy.

The need for education and industry to be working closer together to ensure we have curricula fit for purpose, designed with intent, that will be delivered to high standards, is well recognised. The FE White Paper, Skills for Jobs, highlighted the need for ITE system reform to realise the ambition of having a strong, resilient, and responsive FE and Training system in England, and an FE sector workforce that is recognised as good or outstanding, capable of delivering world-class teaching and training. Employers are integral to writing the standards for the Level 5 Learning and Skills Teaching Apprenticeship, outlining the knowledge, skills, behaviours and competencies that would be expected of competent teachers.

That ambition is laudable, but of course it is actions rather than words that really matter, and it was therefore very positive to see the Department for Education back its aspirations for teacher recruitment, retention and development from the White Paper with the announcement of FE Professional Development Group Funding in June.

Momentum is gathering, and the FE sector will be central to education and economic recovery.

There is cohesion amongst policy makers, stakeholders, FE providers and employers, who are all agree that collaborative partnership working will be the only way to achieve goals. There is also a growing understanding that quality education has an important part to play in achieving sustainable development goals and that FE has a major contribution to play in making that happen.

The focus now must be on developing the skills of all people, identifying what individuals can do rather than what they cannot, and utilising their skills and talents to build a better future. Our newly qualified colleagues couldn’t have joined us at a more crucial time.

Cerian Ayes, National Head of Technical Education, Education and Training Foundation 

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